Deaf People in the Entertainment World

Boxes with popcorn

2018 has seen a lot of mainstream movies and plays where more great deaf characters were played by deaf actors which is wonderful. Gone are the days when deaf actors were given roles as deaf characters that were not displayed in the positive light.

You may wonder why it’s important that a deaf actor is playing a deaf character as anyone would say that a great actor is someone who is able to play any character. The problem is that many talented deaf actors are robbed the opportunity to play in movies and shows, especially that they can play deaf characters better than hearing actors. Marlee Matlin is the first and the only deaf or disabled actor so far to win an Oscars and that happened in 1980s, and since then there have been very few deaf actors besides her having the opportunity to be featured in mainstream entertainment. So it’s great to see more talented deaf actors, producers, directors, and crew members to work alongside hearing colleagues.

The following is a list of movies and plays in 2018 where deaf characters are featured and played by deaf actors:

  • This Close – TV series on Sundance website written, produced, and played by deaf people in American Sign Language with English subtitles.
  • The Silent Child – A 20 minute short film made in UK by Rachel Shenton and Chris Overton in British Sign Language with English subtitles that won an Oscar award in 2018. Rachel played in the film as a social worker and Maisie Sly, a deaf actress, played Libby, a deaf character.
  • Wonderstruck – The tale of two children separated by 50 years. A deaf character was played by Millicent Simmonds, a deaf actress. Some deaf actors also participated in the movie. The story is interesting, but the the issue with the deaf community is that Julianne Moore played not one but two characters and the second is a grown up deaf woman that was supposed to be played by a deaf actress who is fluent in ASL.
  •  A Quiet Place – A horror and sci-fi movie where American Sign Language was used by John Krasinski and Emily Blunt who produced the movie and played hearing parents of a deaf daughter played by Millicent Simmonds, a deaf actress. They are highly praised by the deaf community by taking sign language seriously and hiring a deaf ASL coach.
  • Quantico – ABC TV series featured Marlee Matlin, a deaf actress, as a deaf agent Jocelyn. There were conversations in American Sign Language – not only by Jocelyn, but also her hearing colleagues. Sadly, the series got canceled.
  • Children of a Lesser God – A Broadway play in New York City where Lauren Ridloff, a deaf actress, played Sarah, a deaf character, with Joshua Jackson who played Sarah’s speech therapist. Lauren Ridloff also was nominated Tony. The play got mixed reviews in the deaf community, but many praised Lauren for great acting skills.

It’s great to see more Deaf Talent in entertainment! Hopefully the trend of having hearing actors playing deaf characters stops and having deaf and hard of hearing actors in movie and theaters will eventually become a norm.